Howard W. Johnson, former president of MIT and the author of Holding the Center: Memoirs of a Life in Higher Education, died this past Saturday, December 12. Johnson headed the Institute from 1966 to 1971 and, according to an obituary from the MIT news office, steered MIT through a turbulent era that saw not only changes to engineering education but uprisings over Vietnam and other social issues as well.
"Students have told me, and I agree with them, that they found the institute to be academically vibrant during that time despite the uproar," Johnson wrote in Holding the Center. "Much that was positive emerged from the upheaval, and, as in the aftermath of every revolution, it is important to build upon the good results and minimize the damage. That is what we tried to do at MIT, sometimes with success."
Johnson also served as dean of MIT's Sloan School of Management before becoming president. He was 87.
Yegor Gaidar, a key architect of Russia's transition from communism to a market economy, died on Wednesday at the age of 53. Gaidar, who served as acting prime minister under Boris Yeltsin in 1992, was an architect of what came to be known in Russia as "shock therapy": opening prices that had formerly been set by the state to market competition. According to the AP's obituary, he was "loathed by ordinary Russians who saw their savings wiped out by the inflation that followed his sudden price liberalization that year. But he was praised by others for taking it upon himself to make painful but necessary changes to fix a dysfunctional communist economy."
The AP notes that Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin put out a statement calling Gaidar "a genuine citizen and patriot, a strong spirited person, a talented scientist, writer and expert. ... He didn't dodge responsibility and 'took the punch' in the most challenging situations with honor and courage.''
Gaidar coauthored Russian Reform/International Money with Karl Otto Pöhl in 1995 and was the editor of The Economics of Russian Transition, published in 2003. At his death, he was working on another book, The Long View, which we plan to publish in the future.
Late update: Here is a tribute from UC Berkeley economist Brad DeLong.
We shall miss them both.